The Danger of Annual Checkups

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Visiting your doctor for an annual physical examination might actually have a negative impact on your health, reports. Danish researchers analyzed studies involving 183,000 patients and found that those who received regular checkups were no less likely to die of cancer or heart disease than those who only saw the doctor when they had symptoms.

People who skipped their annual checkup were also no more likely than those who didn’t to end up in the hospital, become disabled, or miss work. Patients who saw the doctor regularly were more likely to be diagnosed with diseases and to take prescribed medication— but those added attentions didn’t seem to actually improve their health. That’s evidence that annual health checkups actually increase the “risk of over-diagnosis,” which can lead to invasive and unnecessary biopsies, surgeries, and other treatments, says study author Lasse T. Krogsboll. Routine visits to the doctor can also cause undue stress, and sometimes even physical damage. “We are certainly not seeing the entire picture of the harms,” Krogsboll says.